London (AFP) - Doctors who have harmed patients could face tougher sanctions and be forced to apologise under plans outlined Friday by the General Medical Council (GMC).
Medics could face restrictions on their practice, or be suspended or even removed entirely from a register that allows them to work, even if they have made improvements since the failing.
Under the proposals doctors will be expected to apologise to patients they have harmed and failure to do so could affect the sanction they face, the GMC said.
The measures will be put to the public and medical groups in a consultation as part of a major review of how concerns about doctors are dealt with.
The GMC said it will also consider more serious action against doctors who fail to raise concerns about a colleague's fitness to practise and failures to meet patients' basic needs.
Niall Dickson, Chief Executive of the GMC -- the independent regulator for doctors in Britain -- said the measures were needed to protect patients and "uphold the reputation of the profession".
"Doctors are among the most trusted professionals, and rightly so, and they deserve to be treated fairly," he said.
"In the vast majority of cases one-off clinical errors do not merit any action by the GMC. But if we are to maintain that trust, in the small number of serious cases where doctors fail to listen to concerns and take action sooner to protect patients, they should be held to account for their actions."
He said that some doctors had previously evaded penalties for serious errors because they had subsequently improved their practice.
"We believe that doctors and patients want stronger action in these serious cases," Dickson added.
"It is also right that patients or their families are told what went wrong and if appropriate they should be given a full apology."
The consultation runs until November 14 with the outcome to be published in 2015.